Ok. Last turkey topic, for the last day of November - promise.

A quick Thanksgiving scene from Jeff and Whitney's lovely home that was made ever warmer with smells of apple pie, turkey and all the fixings, a wood-burning fire, a 25-year old leather bomber jacket, the cutest cavalier king charles you ever did see and the joy of family.

Everything homemade, hand-crafted, and with lots of firsts, especially for my brother who carved the 22-pound bird. Beautifully, I might add.

Aren't they so cute? BTW: vintage table cloth and antique silver were all gifts from Whitney's mom. Dining chairs and bench refinished and painted by Whitney.

Back tomorrow, officially ringing in Christmas.


oh my.

Quick brag: Sweet Kathryn of Snippet & Ink posted today about our - yes, our (!) - wedding. My heart is so full of joy to share her kind words and the story of our day in photos.

Go. See. Enjoy!

PS: If you're new to S&I, may I provide this intro. to one of my favorite places in cyberspace.


happy turkey day. almost.

I cannot believe Thanksgiving is almost here. I have so much to be thankful for this year, and in particular, to writing this here blog, and being connected with readers-become-friends, like you, which has made my life richer in so many ways. So, thanks.
{letterpress cards from Paper Source}
With turkey day quickly approaching, like most of you (I hope!), I'm taking some time to slow down, cook with my family (it's Whitney's first Thanksgiving!) and give thanks. I'll be popping in and out and will be back in full swing after the holiday.

I wish you and yours a beautiful day!


falling in love.

Andrea and Luis' wedding was a fall fairytale; it was beautiful, inside and out, with lovely family and friends that have become a part of our lives for the past 14 years. It was yummy, touching, fun and personal. In short, it was a freaking blast.

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of my camera, I wasn't. Apparently it's impossible for me to shoot anything that's not touched by sunlight. So, here are just a few details...

Congratulations to dear friends!


november bride dedication: wedding link friday.

It's here! Andrea's wedding weekend is finally here and I could not be more excited.

It's hard not to have wedding envy when there's inspiration everywhere you look. Here are a few wedding-inspired links that have recently made my favorites folder - just to get us in the mood for a real wedding weekend:

+ black, white and red all over: in love with these lovely love letter-inspired invitations.
+ as if you need a reason for a yellow-themed wedding...
+ major eye candy: a chic Santa Monica wedding.
+ sweet, heartfelt and handmade details that will make you swoon (as will the desserts).
+ plaid bow tie + photos-as-garland + string lights + dream venue I've never heard of = this beauty.
+ and go see this one... just because it reminds me of my brother and Whitney's beautiful farm wedding.

Dear Andrea: I wish you this kind of day and I can't wait to celebrate with you...
{photo by Amy & Stuart}
PS: That's our beautiful November bride with the blonde locks. Happiness.


let's do something christmas-y.

As if in the North Pole, little elves take over Manhattan Beach this week and turn local shops into winter wonderlands. Complete with Christmas caroling, two tiny reindeer and egg nog, here are scenes from last night's Holiday Pier Lighting and Open House...
{best secret patio in town: Third Gallery}
{gingerbread cookie decorating at Becker's}
{stocking stuffers at the Manhattan Creamery}
Our personal favorite is the brain-child of our friend and shop owner, Nikki: marshmellow + cotton ball garland at Cielo. Yes, I said marshmellows (on clear fishing wire).
I'm officially in the spirit. I can't wait for the Santa visits to start!


it's beginning to look a lot like christmas.

{image source}
Tonight is Manhattan Beach's holiday pier lighting and open house, and I hope to have a few Christmas-y images for you tomorrow.

Happy Wednesday!


inspired by: calligraphy basics.

As promised... I have a details to share from Friday's Paper Source date with Whitney and my mom. We spent the night listening to jolly Christmas tunes in one of my favorite places, while we oooh'd and ahhh'd over pretty penmanship, and learned the basics of pointed pen calligraphy.
Our instructor was Mary Grimes, who has been writing beautifully since her first calligraphy class in 1985. We learned some basics of Copperplate, using a 6B Derwent, and then moved onto the real deal - which was as exciting as it was frustrating. If I didn't before, I now have the utmost respect for hand calligraphers, especially Miss Bianca, who, with every upstroke, downstroke and flourish makes letters simply irresistible.
We learned about nibs, ink, pen pressure and paper and it felt more like art than handwriting. And it was so fun. Lots of practice to come, but after a three hour tour of the basics, I am ready for it. (Not like when I first attempted to teach myself and gave up after about 5 minutes.)
Mary referred us to learn more about the art of calligraphy, including materials, workshops, etc. at IAMPETH.

Bonus of taking a Paper Source class... shopping with a 10% discount. Yes: the coasters really are as cute in person as they are online.
I was feeling the Christmas spirit, and brought these home:
Thinking: gift tags.

PS: really hard to resist the most perfect Christmas-tree-scented candle. Must return. Soon.


weekend snaps.

Sunset in Corona del Mar (right here, to be exact).
Friday date night with Whitney and my mom at Paper Source (more on that tomorrow!).
Our first wine club shipment. Ever!
More deliciousness from a bottle: pure apple juice.
PW bulbs = planted. Two single bulb baskets and one standard pail of three, all from Target - just like last year. They're hibernating in a cool, dark closet. Will keep you posted on progress.


hooray for friday.

TGIF. Here's to the weekend, and for moi, to getting a head start this afternoon with a little lightening of the hair (in length, and color, of course).
{from Parrot Design Studio's Etsy shop, via Oh So Beautiful Paper}
Some look-see's to get your weekend started:
+ I've been dreaming about this scarf since I saw it on Acquainted with the Night.
+ I've also been dreaming about jeggings. December's Real Simple has a great spread on the best out there under $50. Pining for... these.
+ A really great reason to make oatmeal your breakfast of choice. Note: pumpkin is involved. Sold!
+ Christmas present idea: homemade personalized stationery. The DIY how-to here.
+ Fall table decor in all its light, white and airy perfection, from Dreamy Whites.
+ Stripes. On the ceiling. Love.

Lastly, in honor of our November bride's wedding week - which officially kicks off tomorrow, btw - I'm taking suggestions on wedding week must-do's (think: tanning, nails, giving thanks, remembering to breathe, etc.). Send 'em my way, or drop me a note via comment so I can share your wisdom with my BFF. I'll also have wedding-themed links for you next Friday, just to get us all in the mood.

OMG. I'm so excited for Andrea.

Happy weekend, all!


arrived: how easy is that?

Thanks to Borders, Ina Garten's newest cookbook, How Easy Is That?, arrived on our doorstep, and I've been taking my time soaking in every beautiful page.
Everyone needs her own copy, so I won't spoil it, but here are a few of my favorite things:

+ The photos are simply ... yummy. Check out the photographer here.

+ If you watch her Food Network show, you'll be pleasantly reminded of some recipes you've seen and that you've been meaning to try them. Like her Friday night roast chicken (p. 122) for which she's become a well-known queen of poultry. Maybe it's finally time I try it for myself.

+ Woven throughout the book are 68 tips for making cooking easier. It's like 68 glances into The BC's kitchen and how she makes it work. Brilliant.

I'm certain you'll be so happy to add this to your cookbook shelf if you haven't already... and, if you have, what's your favorite(s) from it?

PS: Did you miss Big Girls Small Kitchen's one-on-one interview with Ina Garten? Here it is, if you did. And, for my most recent post on a BC recipe, click here.

PSS: in the same Borders shipment, this book arrived. I'm diving into it tonight!


we heart we olive.

And Thai Gourmet. And Frosted Cupcakery. But, I digress.
A few months ago, my foodie friends Lisa and Aaron bragged about We Olive after Stroll & Savor, summer's official taste of Belmont Shore in Long Beach. It didn't take much convincing to get me there, and exactly one week ago, I joined Lisa, plus three other taste-testing-friends, Rachel, Amy and Matt, for a night of bread and olive oil. Really? Really.

Thanks to friendly Phil, we tasted oils, balsamics and vinegars... and dukkah. Do you know what that is? 'Twas so amazing Lisa brought some home.

I came home with... exactly what I was hoping to find.
+ A good California olive oil: Hillstone Olive Oil Arbequina. As far as the extra virgin olive oils we tasted, this was of the stronger - but lighter - variety, and it lingers with a hint of pepper that you can feel as it goes down... in a good way. And we were told it's a fabulous cooking olive oil for pastas, salads, bruschetta and green vegetables. And, perhaps most importantly: for bread dipping.

+ A sweet syrup-y balsamic: We Olive's Traditional Aged Balsamic of Modena. BTW: they sell this from the barrel, so you return with the same bottle and refill for a cheaper rate. Love the idea of recycling and reusing glass.

When I go back for my balsamic refill, I'm going to take a closer look at their white balsamics and cider vinegars (and dukkah). I hope Phil's there to fill me in on other good tips about dips, like:

+ Store your olive oil away from the sun. Like wine, olive oil is adversely affected by light and heat.
+ Extra virgin and extra extra virgin aren't so different (at all).
+ When shopping for balsamics, age = sweetness; the older the bottle, the sweeter the syrup.
+ If you can find a bottle of balsamic with an authentic seal and/or batch number, you're heading in the right direction.

We ended the night here, before stuffing ourselves here. In short: Wednesday night perfection.
L: thanks for bringing us together. Our date was everything I hoped for, and so much more!

PS: We used the Hillstone Olive Oil on our sweet potato fries over the weekend. Deee-lightful.


hostess gift ideas: part deux.

The holiday catalogues keep on coming, and I'm loving it - aren't you? Following up from last week's post, here are eight (actually, nine) more hostess gift ideas for the holiday party season...

From Anthropologie:
From left-to-right: holiday bouquet candle; monogrammed mugs; mini latte bowls (maybe filled with peppermints?); shell measuring spoons.

From Crate & Barrel:From left-to-right: snowflake candle holders; kissing ball (paired with mistletoe, perhaps?); pin dot ramekin; mini antiqued silver glass ornaments.

And, in the C&B bonus department, our holiday household is never complete until a tin of these arrive. I'm hungry just thinking about them!


new wknd recipes from simply recipes.

Last weekend, when I was making my first applesauce, I found Simply Recipes, via Smitten Kitchen and have added it to my favorites. I've poured through the blog - oh, the recipes, the photos, the tips on photos... a beautiful family affair that's so worth sharing for it's friendly conversation, and encyclopedia of go-to recipes.

Over the weekend, we tried two favorites and have decided that we might just have found our perfect date-night-in dinner, especially when college football is involved.
Finally! A pulled pork recipe that I can do; one that doesn't require seven hours of cooking, or a crock pot. A few, good store-bought items complete this simple meal:

+ We eat ours in between Hawaiian bread rolls (as if there's any other way).
+ Cole slaw is bagged shredded green cabbage mixed with a few dollops of bottled miso salad dressing.
+ To slather and finish it off: Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce is our favorite (to be exact: hickory & brown sugar).

We've tried a few different - and similar - recipes for sweet potato fries, and this one is by far our new favorite. I think it's the combination of recommended spices (we added paprika and smoked chipotle powder). We also took the reader suggestions mentioned and pre-heated the baking sheet, used a little less oil and some non-stick baking spray to keep it on the crispier and healthier side.

We also have a haunch this recipe worked so well because of a new, recent purchase (perhaps... olive oil?), which I'll be blogging about later this week.

For dipping, we made our own favorite, which was inspired by a Tyler Florence aioli (for his ultimate crab cakes - dee-lish, btw), a Redondo Beach restaurant and our love for all-things whole grain mustard:
Eddie's favorite chip dip
Yield: about 4 servings

1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced (give or take, depending on taste and consistency)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine garlic, mayo, mustard and lemon juice in a bowl and mix well. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 min. prior to serving.

Note: we also love this dip as a spread for making a plain sandwich feel extra special, as well as an alternative to honey mustard or dijon with honey baked ham.


feel good friday.

Aren't sunflowers just the happiest flowers? (Kathleen Kelly prefers daises to sunflowers, but since they're of the same Asteraceae family, she and I are on the same page. Phew.) I love bringing some warmth to the house with sunflowers, especially in Autumn (not that So. Cal. is lacking in warmth these days).
I didn't get nearly enough blog reading in this week, so here's just a few, quick links:

+ More daises: wedding inspiration from the happy little flower.
+ Loving this impromptu birthday party setup, complete with IKEA fabric-turned-tablecloth, found via Party Perfect. Thinking the red and green stripes might be fun addition for the holidays.
+ Speaking of parties, filing this one away for cocktail hour: apple + smoked mozz mini-calzones from Sprouted Kitchen.
+ Who doesn't love a good before-and-after? Must see: The Chic Line's end table. Fabulousness.

I'll be back next week with more hostess gift ideas, a bit about olive oil (!) and hopefully, some new weekend recipes. Fingers crossed. Have a lovely, sunflower-y weekend!


hostess gift ideas: part one.

I might be jumping the gun here, and if I wasn't so excited for Thanksgiving, I might think I'm a little crazy, but... 'Tis the season for holiday parties... almost. (Not that I'm not savoring every November day. Because I am.)

I'm betting that like you, holiday catalogues are piling up, and I'm loving every second of pouring through pretty pages of pretty things. So, here's a roundup of some small hostess gift ideas that have caught my eye. If I could be so organized as to buy now, and tuck away for that last minute party as I'm running out the door this month and next (and, if you're like me, that's usually last minute, too), that would be really wonderful, and truly, a first.

Until then, let's do some window shopping, shall we?

From Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma:
From left-to-right: chantal embroidered guest towels; antique silver spreaders; winter forest handcare set; peppermint bark.

Note: I have personally sampled WS' peppermint bark (year-after-year, in fact) and highly recommend it, not only for gifting, but to have on-hand for impromptu gatherings throughout the holidays. Or... to accompany your average week-night TV viewing. In all cases, it's melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

From Paper Source:
From left-to-right: letterpress 2011 desk calendar; naughty or nice coasters; wool winter owl ornament; letterpressed thank you notes.

I'll have more next week from Anthropologie and Crate & Barrel. Yum.



I'm not passing over November. I just have a giant stack of holiday catalogues that I'm slowly devouring, and it's hard not to share: if we didn't already have our stockings, I would be ordering a personalized pair of these. Stat.
From Suzanne Kasler's collection at Ballard Designs.

PS: Coming tomorrow - hostess gift ideas from a few of my favorite stores. It's not too early to start thinking holiday parties, is it? Thanksgiving: 22 days and counting.


criss-cross applesauce.

As promised, here's Smitten Kitchen's simple recipe for yummy, homemade applesauce. Appropriately named, this was my first applesauce - ever - and without her delicious cake recipe, I'd continue being a lifelong Tree Top fan club member. And now, I might never go back.
First Applesauce from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: A lot. Guessing about 3 quarts.

4 pounds apples, peeled and cored (I used a mix of Gala and Granny Smith - see note below)
4 strips of lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water

Peel, core and chop your apples in into large chunks, about 8-ish pieces per apple. Put all of the ingredients in a large pot, stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce it to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until apples are soft and you can squish them with the back of a fork. Remove lemon peels (and whole cinnamon stick, if used), and let cool.

Mash or puree in a food processor, blender or food mill and freeze in small portions. To control texture and chunk'age, I used a pastry cutter to mash the entire pot, and then scooped about half into the food processor and blended to thin. I then returned the thinned sauce to the chunkier pot, stirred and canned in pint-sized mason jars. (FYI: I read that applesauce will keep in a cold freezer, sealed tightly, for up to a year.)

+ When baking with apples, I use this to core (and start the chopping process) after peeling with this (only because it's what I had handy when I attempted my first apple pie, and the system works for me).
+ I used a combo of gala and granny smith, because I love both varieties, and that's simply what looked best at the market. There's lots of good cooking/baking apples from which to choose - check this list out (found via SK via Simply Recipe's original applesauce recipe).

+ I gave the steamy pot o' apples a big stir a few times while they were simmering away - if nothing else but to inhale. So worth it. Top 10 in the aroma department.

+ I halved the recipe above, which yielded about 3 pints of applesauce.


treats + sweets.

Happy November 1. I just love November, and I'm so happy it's here, for so many reasons (a big one: Andrea's wedding in 19 days!). Before we officially bid October adieu - I have to share with you the Halloween-ish cupcakes I made over the weekend for our little pumpkins.
Last week, I was debating over carrot, pumpkin and plain, old chocolate cake for some treats for M, M + M... and then this perfect candidate came along from Smitten Kitchen - as if I can pass up anything with cream cheese or apples.
Made into cupcakes, this cake is a keeper, especially when you make SK's homemade applesauce, and have loads of it leftover to freeze (or, in Friday night's case, to enjoy with my mom's roasted pork loin).
I like making cupcakes in stages (something I picked up from Ashley to avoid last-minute frazzles); Applesauce was made Friday, the cupcakes were baked on Saturday and frosted on Sunday morning.

SK's amazing recipe is below, with a few of my notes added for making the cake into cupcakes. You can view her original recipe for an 8-/9-inch cake here, which is accompanied by mouth-watering images and helpful hints.
Spiced Applesauce Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting from Smitten Kitchen
Yield: 14-16 cupcakes (or one 8- / 9-inch cake)

For the cake or cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce (recipe + details coming tomorrow)
1/2 cup walnuts (optional, but a must for me), toasted, cooled and chopped

For the frosting: I doubled the quantities below for cupcakes. 
5 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the wells of cupcake pans (if not lining, butter or spray your pans).

Dry roast the walnuts in a saute pan for about 5 minutes, or until you can smell the oils from the nuts. Set aside to cool.

Whisk together 1-3/4 cup flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl, set aside. (If you are not using walnuts, use the full 2 cups of flour at this point.)

Beat butter, brown sugar and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in applesauce. At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three waves, scraping the sides of the bowl each time, until well combined.

Chop and sprinkle your walnuts with the remaining 1/4 cup flour, toss to coat evenly and mix into the batter.

Divide batter evenly into cupcake pans, about 2/3 full per well, and bake until golden brown, testing with a toothpick until the center of comes out clean, about 25 to 30 minutes (note: if baking cake, cooking time is 35 to 40 min.). Cool in pan 15 minutes, remove and let cool completely on cooling racks before frosting.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Sift together the confectioners sugar and cinnamon over cream cheese mixture, then beat at medium speed until fully incorporated. Spread evenly over your cooled cupcakes.

Frosting note: I doubled SK's frosting quantities because I have a heavy hand when it comes to frosting cupcakes. I had a small amount leftover, but I'm okay with that. We'll enjoy with... apple slices?
(And, if it's Halloween... top with candy corns.)

More notes:
+ The walnut / flour situation is explained in detail here (it's a BC method, so, we know it works).
+ The cake sans frosting would be a great breakfast muffin to pair with coffee. But, I'm promising that once you try it with the frosting, you'll never go back.
+ Stay tuned: details on SK's homemade applesauce coming tomorrow.